How do you talk to your elders? Do you talk to them like a friend, relaxed and open, or like a boss, with respect and reverence? Our grandparents grew up in a different time, with world-changing things like the Great Depression and World War II. It was a time of struggle that shaped their lives. The path that our lives have taken is not the same, so our ways of thinking and looking at the world differ drastically. But how do you bridge that gap? You start a conversation.
To be clear, the way I talk to my elders changes depending on the audience. For example, my parent’s friends would be a very different conversation than one with my grandparents. My grandmother was super opinionated on everything, which I loved about her, she was fierce in her opinions and unafraid to speak her mind. With her, my approach to communicating ideas was something along the lines of starting with smaller topics and building up to the more controversial issues. But my parent’s friends tend to still see me as a kid. A child that they don’t view as having full informed opinions on items. It irks me a lot to listen to them talk at times and hear their views that differ from my own. I make strides to speak up, but get talked down to.
The age gap strikes again! As a student on a college campus, I tend to hear discussions about current issues through social media, but I am also surrounded by a group of peers that are younger and more progressive. History shows that the young are the ones that push for new ideas, while the older generations tend to be more inclined towards tradition. But what happens when the gap between those with more progressive views and those that believe in maintaining tradition, prevents us from communicating? The tension to respect your elders while also being free to speak your mind is a tightrope. It is unfortunate that we are unable to have a conversation and learn from our elders. They have wisdom they can impart upon us, but we also have a fresh perspective that we can share with them. Breaking that barrier means sitting down and starting to talk about the easy things and most importantly the hard things. Even when the other party doesn’t want to listen, keep trying, that is the only way we are going to build a bridge to connect the different generations.
KEEP TALKING! If something they say bothers you, speak up and say something. Approach it calmly, state your piece in an even tone, and be informed! If you are going to open the door to a potentially controversial topic, you had better know what you are talking about. Opinions are not facts, and spouting them as such will cause people to disregard what you are saying. Remember that talking is necessary, it is about the communication of ideas and opinions. People should always feel like they can talk to one another. Age difference matters with your audience. Our perspectives are shaped by our experiences and age implies more life experience, However, that doesn’t discount your opinion or anyone else’s.